Setting Intentions versus Making Resolutions
Every time the New Year rolls around you may feel pressured into finding something about yourself or about your life that needs to be changed. Many of us attempt to stop bad habits in their tracks through a New Year Resolution. Many times this doesn’t work well in our favour. By February 17th we may have stopped going to the gym, or maybe we stopped leaving the office at a reasonable hour, or maybe we ate one too many pieces of chocolate.
Why Resolutions Don’t Work
That being said, it is important to understand the oppressive nature of a resolution. Resolutions are really for public policy and academic debates. Resolutions are so rigid and abrupt: the opposite of how life works.
Here are a few definitions of “resolution”
- a firm decision to do or not to do something.
- the quality of being determined or resolute.
- a formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking a vote.
Don’t those definitions sound inflexible and severe? Making a resolution is just another stressor in your life. You may feel like a failure after slipping up once or twice (maybe three, or ten times!)
That is why it is much more helpful to set an intention.
What is an intention?
- a thing intended; an aim or plan.
The key word here is that this is a plan! You can think of a resolution as a final goal and an intention as a way to get there.
Instead of saying my New Year resolution is to stop eating chocolate you can say I intend to eat healthier. Now every time you reach for a chocolate bar you can ask yourself if you have eaten well enough that week to deserve a treat. Every time you go to the grocery store you can ask yourself if you have enough vegetables in your cart to justify picking up that chocolate item.
You see? You are not beating yourself up for failing at your resolution. You are now creating a framework for decision making with your intention!
4 Steps for Setting an Intention
Keep your language positive and empowering! Use phrases like “I will” and avoid phrases like “I won’t” or “I’ll stop”
Allow for flexibility
Life isn’t rigid. People, things and situations change. Allow for a little bit of wiggle-room when setting your intention.
Focus on the future not the past
Let’s say you set your intention to be more patient with your children and in the past couple of days you have found yourself stressed and shouting at them. Look toward the future. Accept that you haven’t been living 100% by your intention, but allow yourself to forgive your mistakes and move on!
Remind yourself often
Try to remind yourself of your intention every day. I personally put a repeating reminder in my phone. If you are anything like me, your phone is like another extremity and a back-up brain!
What kind of intentions would you like to set for the New Year?
Our favorite intentions: